Small things to remember when you are ill

1. This is not forever

It feels like this has been going on forever. It feels unbearable – the pain, discomfort, restriction, isolation, helplessness and loss of who we were and life as we knew it. The truth is that we don’t know the future nor how long our healing will take, but its not likely to stay this way forever.

We have to be patient and allow the healing process to take place. This is just today, not for the rest of our lives. Lets just get through this day and this week as best we can and not try to prophesize or catastrophize the whole of the future.

As Shakespeare said “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Try to pull back from the thoughts which want to distract us from the present moment.

2. Feeling good is medicine

Everything we can do for our health and healing is important. We are preoccupied (rightly so) with our condition and may be putting a lot of focus on diet, exercises, supplementation, therapies, medications, specialists etc. This is all positive as we need to feel we are doing all we can to get better. But its not just the body chemistry we need to fix to be well. Probably the greatest healing takes place on the energetic, emotional and mental levels.

As Pasteur confirmed on his deathbed, the germs may be everywhere, but its the terrain that is important (the cellular environment of the body) as the germs will only survive when the conditions of the body are favourable for them.  Our approach therefore is not to merely try to attack our symptoms with a sledgehammer but to improve the conditions of the entire body and that means via the mind and emotions to – reducing stress and increasing our overall well-being.

I believe that the best medicine is to feel good and so it can be the smallest things we do for ourselves, to bring pleasure, inner peace and distraction from our illness, that can play a critical role in our healing. This means NOT doing (as far as possible) those things which bring stress, pressure and discomfort and NOT doing too much. We need to allow ourselves the time to rest. This is one timein your life when you have permission to enjoy the Chill Pill and do nice things for yourself

We may not be able to do everything we once enjoyed doing but we can still find ways to experience pleasure and lift ourselves which are restorative and relaxing. For me that’s getting out into nature, being in conversation with good company, spending time on YouTubeiversity listening to inspirational or spiritual teachers or being creative and making something. Whatever it is for you, choose to do things which you enjoy and which relax you and inspire you as much as possible. Treat yourself, every day. Go outside if you can, feel the elements on your skin, follow up on that interest you have or explore something new online, put some make up on and make yourself look pretty, exercise or meditate.

Since laughter is the best medicine how about a prescription for a daily dose of ‘You’ve Been Framed’? I also recommend daily meditation and listening to healing hypnotherapy recordings. I’m a hypnotherapist and hope to eventually post some audios on this blog – but right now, recuperating is more important for me.

3. Life is but a stage

We have no control of the events that happen to us and around us, but we can control how we experience, are affected and respond to them. Life might be playing out as a horror film right now but we still might be able to stand back and observe the plot, the characters, the locations, in anticipation of the next piece of the story, without being swept away by the drama and the fear.

What role are we playing in this story and what role would we prefer to play? How would others remember us? Maybe we can shift ourselves from victim to courageous hero? Its natural to go through a range of feelings when you become ill and I don’t believe its healthy to deny or suppress our feelings and certainly not to pretend everything is rosy if it isn’t. But we can be mindful of when we are falling into drama, playing out certain roles which maybe are familiar to us from other times in our lives. Maybe the role we’ve played our whole life is changing and it could be time to broaden and develop our character further.

And I came across a book which said that pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain and pleasure are inherent to life but that suffering is a re-action to the pain and not the pain itself. Maybe we can find different ways to respond to our pain.

4. You are not alone

Unless they’ve had the same health problems themselves, other people are never going to understand how it feels to experience your illness. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t want to help. If you want to feel that people understand then open up and include them by sharing with them the details of it. It’s not enough to name the illness. I kept telling people I had an inner ear infection so they assumed it was an earache. They didn’t know I couldn’t lift my head because the planet had turned into a crazy roller coaster ride. People need to feel it, visualize it and match it to some experience they’ve had in order to really empathize. Its likely they will forget 5 minutes later so remind them that for you its still going on.

If they really care about you then they will be interested in trying to understand how you feel, what helps you and what makes things worse. Off course, not everyone will and this period of time will show us who we can rely on and who is there for us. Keep contact with those that make you feel supported. These are the angels in your life.

Remember also that people probably feel awkward because they have no idea whether you need space to rest and be alone or whether you want company, or what your abilities are. They don’t know how to help or what to say and so feel helpless. We can help the situation by communicating better and clarifying exactly what our needs are and what we would like most.

Times like this we really need different things from people. There’s not much glamour in illness and its a very difficult thing to ask for help from people. We don’t know what people mean when they say “let me know if you need anything”. I need people to take me to hospital appointments which usually involve 2-5 hour waits. Can I ask you for this?

5. Our illness connects us to something higher

Illness connects us in some way to a higher power, whatever that is for each individual. I’m pretty sure that even the atheists, or those with no spiritual/religious inclination ask for healing when they are sick and in pain? Illness confronts us with our own mortality and makes us look at life in a different way, transcending the stuff of daily life and making us think about the higher meaning and purpose of life. We are forced out of the daily humdrum, away from the distractions, activities and entertainments, and inwards into ourselves. To feel our feelings, our pain. To reflect on our relationships, our character and everything we put energy building around us. Illness, can cause us to break apart so that we can gather up the pieces and put them back together in a new updated way.  The process of illness and healing redefines who we are and what is important to us.

By allowing this inner process to take place, accepting that its part of the healing, we can open ourselves up to our own inner intelligence and improve our relationship with our self. We become more self-reliant, knowing that we can draw upon such inner reserves and strengths.

In this way illness brings gifts of transformation and growth on deep levels. Every human being has an instinctual drive towards pleasure and away from pain so off course, this is not pleasant and we want to do everything we can to escape it. But there is a message in here for us somewhere. Lets try not to shoot the messenger because it will be telling us something about who we are and how we are living our lives. What might we discover from this? It might be seeing the world in new ways, making changes in our life, letting go of old ways that no longer serve us, finding new paths, changing direction in a way we couldn’t have before.

Also our illness offers opportunities for everyone around us to connect to something higher, whatever that is for them. It gives them a chance to be of service, to be selfless, to love, to care, to support, without expectation of return.

6. Appreciation is medicine

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you were grateful for yesterday?

This one is close to my heart. The past few months I’ve been so upset about the hearing I have lost and I worry and feel anxious about how I will live with such severe deafness and distorted hearing. But each time my hearing gets worse, I wish and prey for it to return to where it was at the previous level. Things can always get worse. Lets try an appreciate everything today which we do have.

The Rampage of Appreciation is one of the most effective tools I’ve found for increasing happiness and well-being that I know.  Simply take a piece of paper and fill the page, writing everything you can find appreciation for in this moment. If you’re feeling low right now, it may be hard to get going but I promise you will find things to be grateful for. Look around you, find things that you love, think of the parts of your body you are grateful to have…your hair, your fingers, or people you love.

7. You’re doing well…you’re doing well. Keep going!

I think loving ourselves involves treating ourselves in the same way we would a child. When a child cries out in pain, you don’t tell it to shut up and stop complaining, you provide comfort and reassurance. That’s what we need to give ourselves now. This is a crappy, horrible time. We’re  going through major crises and uncertainty but we have been amazing, courageous and strong to get through it this far. I tell myself ‘Well Done’ when I manage to get up each supermarket isle or that ‘I’m doing great’ every time I feel emotionally overwhelmed and like I’ll fall over by the sound of the cars through my hearing aids. I try to talk to myself with a tone of reassurance. These are massive things to deal with and adapt to and we have to care and support ourselves through it just as we would if this was happening to someone else that we love.

What else? What do you remind yourself of? Share your tips!

Smiles come best from those who weep
Smiles come best from those who weep